Holland denied the Football Ferns a seventh-placed finish at the Cyprus Cup on March 6, prevailing 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after the teams had fought out a 2-2 draw on a waterlogged Dasaki Achna Stadium pitch in Larnaca.
A heavy downpour immediately prior to the match left plenty of surface water for the players to contend with as they kicked off, and contributed to Amber Hearn missing an open goal inside the opening quarter hour.
Soon after, a trademark thirty-yard piledriver of a free-kick from Anna Green was tipped onto the bar by Dutch ‘keeper Loes Geurts, who was celebrating with her team-mates ten minutes before half-time, Sylvia Smit firing Holland ahead from the penalty spot after Kristen van den Ven had been felled by Abby Erceg in the area.
Hearn made amends for her earlier blemish on the stroke of half-time, belting home her own penalty kick after a Dutch defender had handled a goal-bound shot in a goalmouth melee - and managed to avoid receiving a card of any colour from an official who wielded five yellow cards in the match, three to Football Ferns players.
Nine minutes into the second half, the Kiwis took the lead, Rosie White and Betsy Hassett combining to play in Sarah Gregorius, whose emphatic half-volley into the roof of the net fired the scorer into the top ten all-time markswomen in New Zealand’s history - this was her eleventh goal for her country in just 22 appearances.
The Football Ferns were still celebrating that goal when the Dutch contrived an equaliser two minutes later. Dyanne Bito, whose 125th international for her country this was, combined with Claudia van den Heiligenberg down the right, the latter firing in a cross which Smit turned home on the far post - 2-2.
Cue a battle royal, with Jenny Bindon producing a superb save to deny substitute Manon Melis moments after Sylvia Nooij had thwarted a Hannah Wilkinson-inspired raid, the substitute returning to action after overcoming an ankle injury which has plagued her tournament.
The Football Ferns were denied strong penalty claims by the referee twenty minutes from time, soon after which Hayley Moorwood’s introduction to the fray saw her join the most capped All White, Ivan Vicelich, in making 74 “A” international appearances for New Zealand.
Van den Ven was frustrated by sound defending three minutes before the final whistle, which, given the 2-2 scoreline, meant a penalty shoot-out would be required to determine the final placings.
Geurts was the heroine for the Dutch in the shoot-out, saving two of New Zealand’s attempts to score from twelve yards. Van de Ven fired home Holland’s fourth successive spot-kick to clinch a 4-2 win on penalties for the European team.
The shoot-out result consigns the Football Ferns to an eighth-placed finish at the 2012 Cyprus Cup, a repeat of their final placing twelve months ago, although they were a much better-performed team this time round, going through the tournament unbeaten.
Football Ferns coach Tony Readings was pleased with the overall efforts of his charges throughout this physically demanding tournament. “We’ve come up against four different teams and styles from three different continents, each of which has prompted us to play every match in a slightly different way.
“We want to challenge for the gold medal at the Olympics, so we’ve called on the players to make the necessary changes to the way they’ve played during each match, and they’ve done really well in
“Overall, I’m happy with our results here in Cyprus, and even happier with the performances we’ve put in, particularly given the knowledge that there’s a lot more to come from us between now and the presentation of the gold medal at London 2012”.
Readings, who made special mention of the efforts of Bindon, Gregorius and Hearn against the Dutch, praised the last-mentioned - “Amber has been a stand-out throughout this tournament” - for her overall contribution to a competition in which Katie Hoyle, Ria Percival and the central defensive pairing of Rebecca Smith and Abby Erceg have all impressed.
The Football Ferns now disburse to all points of the compass before reconvening again in Auckland late in March, ahead of their two-legged OFC Olympic Women’s Qualifying encounter with Papua New Guinea to determine the final country to book their place at the 2012 Olympic Women’s Football Tournament.
The matches take place in a New Zealand provincial centre on March 31 and abroad on April 4, with the aggregate winner joining Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Columbia, France, Japan, North Korea, South Africa, Sweden, the USA and host nation Great Britain at London 2012, the draw for which takes place at Wembley Stadium on April 24.
Football Ferns: Bindon; Riley, Smith, Erceg, Green (Percival, 65); Hassett (Longo, 55), Hoyle, Hearn, Yallop (Moorwood, 72); White (Wilkinson, 55), Gregorius
Holland: Geurts; Bito, Nooij, Roelvink, van den Heiligenberg (Hogewonig, 82 (booked, 90)); Middag (Heuver, 76), Spitse, Oudejans (Melis, 58), Smit (booked, 42); van de Ven, Pieete
The other Cyprus Cup matches saw France improve on last season’s third placing to win the tournament in 2012 on the back of a 2-0 victory over Canada, who have won the last two Cyprus Cup competitions and featured in all five finals to date.
Marie-Laure Delie rattled home a twenty-yarder on the half-hour to give the French a half-time lead which Louisa Necib doubled from the penalty spot just after the hour mark, Rhian Wilkinson having fouled Sonia Bompastor in the area.
Italy produced a stunning come-from-behind 3-1 victory over England to finish third, after Jade Moore had given the Lionesses a 25th minute lead. Patrizia Panico levelled matters on the hour, while Pamela Conti struck five minutes later to give the Italians a surprise lead in Paralimni.
Moore had a potential equaliser disallowed soon after, but England’s second successive defeat was confirmed four minutes from time when Melania Gabbiadini iced the Italians’ cake in style.
Korea Republic claimed fifth spot with a 7-6 win on penalties over Finland, after they had fought out a 1-1 draw in Larnaca. The tournament’s most prolific markswomen were both on target in this match, Finland’s Linda Sallstrom netting her fifth goal of the competition in the 53rd minute, only for Cha Yun-Hee to level matters three minutes later with her fourth goal of Cyprus Cup 2012.
The battle for ninth place was settled early on, two Kim Little strikes in the first 24 minutes earning Scotland a 2-0 victory over South Africa. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland were handed the wooden spoon when spanked 5-0 by Switzerland in the play-off for eleventh spot.
Ana Crnogorcevic’s sixteenth minute strike - the first of two she scored in the match - was the only goal of the first half, but the Swiss went to town in the second spell, Sandy Maendly, Daniela Schwarz and Jehona Mehmeti all joining their team-mate in finding the net in Larnaca.